Do pop up bars really pop?

Lately, pop-up businesses have been like the game whack-a-mole, as soon as one stand closes, another 5 reappear. Whether it’s a retail shop appearing in an empty space, or a pop-up cafe/bar operating out of a local venue. Us Aussies seem to love pop-ups! I’m sure you know someone (or maybe you’re the culprit) of spending hours lining up to get into a beach club in the middle of the city, or a taste of Miami in a cold Melbourne side alley.

Pop-ups are typically with us for a short period and are fresh, fabulous, and funky. Around long enough for the grass to wilt, but not quite long enough to actually die.

While themed pop-ups often stretch the imagination they also beg the question: Is it all too much? When was going to a bar for a round of drinks with friends stopped being entertaining enough? Themed bars are well known in the American drinking culture, but perhaps Australian pop-ups are offering a transportive experience above our established local haunts. If this is, in fact, the case, where does this leave our loyal and often long-term establishments? There are only so many patrons to go around, how can a long standing, loyal venues compete with the latest and greatest “place to be seen”

Within the hospitality sector, pop-ups were designed and approved in order to generate extra traffic and revenue to specific areas. The question I pose is; does having a pop-up bar in your area increase traffic and revenue for all venues in the area or do these temporary pop-ups drain trade from the local establishments? Do you even care, and should you? Well, I do! As a frequent customer to not only my local establishments but a supporter of the industry in my profession, I believe we all have a part to play and need an awareness of your impact to the hospitality industry $.

Some pop-up bars pull in tens of thousands of punters in a few months and statistics have shown a trade plunge of 25 percent on nights pop-ups were open in some states suggesting that established businesses are at risk when pop-ups are allowed to “gouge the market”.

So is there room for both? I suggest there is a place for genuine pop-ups but not those intended to be there on an ongoing basis - which essentially ruins the concept. A common misconception is that pop-up events run at little cost. Not only are venues hired at a significant premium but permanent facilities are needed to be leased all year round to store and build the equipment and infrastructure that brings these spaces to life. On the other hand, local establishments have spent years paying for their right to be the preferred option for local clientele. 

Does the evolution of pop-up bars speak to our insatiable appetite for entertainment? Perhaps. Or maybe it’s more about the ongoing need for the escapism. Either way, as an Aussie pub patron, my plan is to visit the POP-UP and POP-IN to my local venues too!